{Interview} Stred Stred talks to Ross Jeffery about his upcoming novella Juniper.

Back in early December, Steve Stred reviewed the latest novella, Juniper, by Ross Jeffery. In his review, Steve called Juniper ‘…deeply unsettling, horrific over and over again, but also tender and gentle’

You can read the full Juniper Kendall Review HERE

Published 21st February 2020 via The Writing Collective Steve wanted to find out more about Juniper & Ross before the book hit the shelves.

Steve Stred Talks to Ross Jeffery

Your Novella ‘Juniper’ arrives here shortly. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Juniper was a project that came out of the blue, it was originally based on a short story I was planning on penning. I had a rough idea about how I wanted to take the story but the more I worked on it, I soon discovered that this place, this story, these characters needed a fully realised world to populate. So somewhat reluctantly I started working on the world, what it would look like, feel like, how these characters would interact with the world around them – and then from that spawned other characters and they all seemed to have a story they wanted me to tell. I’m a little obsessed with weird fiction, if you’ve ever read any of my short stories you’ll see that there are elements of the uncanny or as people classify it now ‘weird fictional elements’ within them – so with Juniper I wanted to combine the weird and uncanny with a fully realised world. After working on Shallow Creek for STORGY Books – I knew what it would take to make this world believable, how much background work needed to go into making this world fully functional and immersive – so I set about drawing a map of the town, the shops, where people lived, what characters linked to other characters, places of interest. It just seemed to develop organically and became a much larger beast than I ever initially intended – I’m usually at home writing 5000 word short stories and this book pushed me to write the longest piece of fiction I’d ever undertaken. But what I’ve learnt along the way and during my fledgling writing career is that if a story wants you to write it, you bloody well put your ass in the chair and get it done.

Juniper in essence is the story of survival, a story of hope and loss, of loneliness and how the quest for survival makes monsters of men and women.

As Juniper suffers from scorching drought and medieval famine, the townsfolk are forced to rely on the ‘new cattle’ for food: monstrous interbred cats kept by the oppressed Janet Lehey. 

But there’s a problem: Janet’s prized ginger tom, Bucky, has gone missing, flown the coop. As Janet and her deranged ex-con husband Klein intensify their search for the hulking mongrel, Betty Davis, an old woman clinging to survival on the outskirts of Juniper, discovers something large and ginger and lying half-dead by the side of the road. 

She decides to take it home… 

What motivated you to set it as a post-apocalyptic story?

I think what I love about post-apocalyptic fiction is that in the current state of the world it’s quite easy to visualise. I also find something quite cathartic in writing about the end of the world, how humanity may or may not survive; and if we’re all honest, we’ve all thought about it at some point global warming, wars, nuclear missiles and as writing the apocalyptic fires devastating Australia.

I also enjoy reading post-apocalyptic fiction too, seeing how people predict what will happen to us, what will happen to the world and humanity.

When writing Juniper I wanted to hint at a post-apocalyptic world, or a time that was bordering on what is to come – so I set it a little bit into the future, I refrain from dates but allow the mind of the reader to determine whether this is a few years of a couple of centuries into our eventual demise. From early readers and some fantastic review these elements of the apocalyptic have been well received with many people saying that the heat, humidity and desolation is a character in itself and that they felt parched and hot whilst reading – for me, as a writer, I couldn’t think of a better compliment as when writing Juniper I wanted the sense of place to be one that consumed the reader and I feel that that has been achieved.

Desperate times make desperate people do the most strangest of things and I think that is what gives the writer so much to work with and causes our interest as a reader to be piqued. I had a blast writing Juniper and putting across my interpretation of the end of the world.

Does music influence your writing? Is there a specific genre or band you frequently like to listen to when writing?

Well, with Juniper I had a soundtrack of Fleetwood Mac, John Denver and Fairport Convention – I don’t usually listen to music when I’m writing but for Juniper I made an exception and I actually quite liked it, I loved the process of listening to my vinyl records and having to get up and turn them over also helped me with taking some breaks every now and again. It helped me get the feel of what I was writing, the imagery in the lyrics and the flow of the music was a pretty good companion to the writing process – I’d also listened to John Denver extensively in the planning process and I feel that his lyricism and imagery of nature helped me to create some of the landscape that surround Juniper.

Usually though I prefer to write in silence, or I put on something a film or a TV show on in the background, turn the volume down so it’s more like white noise and then get cracking.

Tell me a bit about your involvement with Storgy. How did that come about?

Well, STORGY was originally set up by Tomek Dzido and Tony Self – two of my oldest and best friends. When they had set up the magazine I was in a state of not writing (I had a seven-year spell of not writing at all – a crisis of my writing faith) and so as I was on the bench, these two guys set up STORGY. In its early days it was a shared writing platform, they would post one-word titles and then people would take that title and then write a page short story, each one would then be emailed in and then they would choose which one was the best and it would be published on STORGY.

I was off work having neck surgery and whilst being off I had some time on my hands. The guys approached me and asked me to join the team – it was at a point when they needed to bring in some new blood or they were going to let STORGY go. It was a huge undertaking and it wasn’t heading in the direction that they wanted. So, they reached out to me and I brought with me a new level of enthusiasm, set up the book review section and from there on STORGY has exploded into a beast of an online magazine – we release three original short stories a week from writers all across the world, two book reviews each week and a tonne of other content. We’ve interviewed a great many fabulous writers Chuck Palahniuk, James Frey, Patrick deWitt, M.R. Carey, Max Porter, Grady Hendrix, Kirsty Logan, Donald Ray Pollock plus many more.

A couple of years ago we decided to get more serious with our dream of being publishers and we ran out first Kickstarter anthology Exit Earth (a dystopian anthology which features our competition winners plus stories from M.R. Carey, Toby Litt, James Miller, Courttia Newland and David James Poissant) which was a huge success and was shortly added to the reading list at Leeds Beckett University on their creative writing course. The following year we released our second print competition anthology funded though Kickstarter called Shallow Creek (a horror anthology) which as well as competition winners has additional stories from Aliya Whitely, Sarah Lotz and Richard Thomas (we also have a story that was submitted into the competition by Adrian J Walker – which was pretty cool that he wanted to get involved in our project). Then following this last year we released our first single-authored collection Hopeful Monsters by Roger McKnight – which has been getting rave reviews from writers such as Donald Ray Pollock and other masters of the short story form.

We’ve a couple of other projects lined up this year – which include our first Novel (by Tomas Marcantonio) and our third anthology Annihilation Radiation, plus our limited edition chapbook of our 2019 flash fiction competition. So it’s going well, we just wish we could turn this into a full-time job… but at the forefront of everything we do, it’s about promoting authors, books, publishing and shining a spotlight on upcoming talent!

Classic question – any three people (alive or dead) can come have dinner with you? Who do you choose and why?

Chuck Palahniuk – I’d love to have this guy at my dinner, I’ve listened to loads of his interviews and discussions and he’s just a natural storyteller, but also he has a way of getting people to open up and offer stories that would generally not be forthcoming – he kind of allows there to be no filter and people really open up. Plus I’d love a retelling of his story Guts.

Stephen King – Mainly I’d love to just pick this guy’s brains, ask him questions, listen to him talk about his life and what it’s taken to get to where he is, what projects he has lurking in the background, plus to hear King read a story is like discovering it afresh.

Philip K Dick – I’d love to chat to this man about his visions of the future, also it would be amazing to see what he makes of the world, see if any of his science fiction has become science fact. Plus I’m assuming he’d bring the crazy and all parties need a bit of that!

Is there anything that keeps you awake at night? Any specific fear or monster that makes you tuck the blankets in?

I sleep like a baby. Nothing really keeps me awake – come to think of it the only thing that does keep me awake at night are my current writing projects, if I’m in the zone writing, when I’m dropping off to sleep is the time that ideas spring to mind, snippets of conversations, plot points or twists, gruesome details that need writing down. So I grab the pad at the side of my bed or use my phone to jot these down.

But a fear that would be that anything bad happening to my wife and children – that’s something that pops into the consciousness every now and then – and those thoughts can be dark and chilling.

I also hate spiders but that’s because they are evil.

Hypothetical Question – You’ve just won a Bram Stoker award for one of your releases. Who is the first author that you’d dream to come shake your hand and say congrats?

Stephen King – come on, is there anyone else!

If ‘Juniper’ was made into a movie, who would be the actresses/actors to play the roles?

Wow, what a brilliant question. I’m not going to lie I’ve had dreams of this being picked up by Bad Robot or some other producer and in all my visions these are the three title roles and the characters I’d love to see bring my creations to life.

Betty – Miriam Margolyes

Janet – Toni Collette

Klein – Stephen Graham

Hypothetical Question – It’s the year 2300 and we all live on Mars. Steven Spielberg the 17th decides to relaunch a horror movie franchise. Which franchise does he relaunch?

I’d have to go with one of my favourites from my childhood and that would be A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Last question. What’s next for Ross Jeffery? Are you working on anything? If so, when might we see it?

The next book I’m releasing is called ‘Tethered’. It’s a Novella-in-Flash which I’ve been writing for about a year now, each story revolves around a father and son, told with unflinching and honest prose that is both hard-hitting and heartrending. These stories delve into themes of toxic masculinity, love, hope, despair, domestic violence, sexuality, weakness and overcoming oppression. I believe it asks the bigger question of ‘do we ever escape the harm our parents do to us; or do we go through life marred and influenced from our upbringing.’

I’ve had some early feedback from Adam Lock who released the astonishingly brilliant Novella-in-Flash Dinosaur last year (which was also in my best books of 2019).

Ross Jeffery’s flash fiction is immediate, visceral and real. To read his stories is to feel the understanding of a life lived through the eyes of a compassionate man. Always unapologetic, always raw, always true.’ Adam Lock – author of Dinosaur

I’ve also got another project which is in the early planning stages at the moment called ‘Hostage’ which has a more folklore/mythology vibe but also has a very weird concept too (would you expect anything less) set in Polperro a little village on the coast in Cornwall in the United Kingdom. As I said this is in the early planning stages at the moment. Something I learnt from writing Juniper and longer fiction in general is that you can never over plan – nothing is ever wasted. So at the moment my office is full of maps, sketches, plot points drawn up and pinned to a huge pin-board (as if I’m investigating a murder) – I’ve printed out images that I like the look of for setting and sketched some key elements etc. Plus I’m also doing a tonne of reading for research and also reading books that share the same vibe as what I’m intending to write.

I’ve also two short stories currently out for competitions – so they may soon see the light of day, but if they are not selected they may form a collection that I’m also thinking of releasing too!

But that’s not all…

A little exclusive is that I’ve already finished book two of my proposed Juniper Trilogy and the title of this book is called ‘Tome’ it’s set fifteen years before Juniper and we get a glimpse into another sordid part of Junipers history. This project is currently with my editor and he’s very excited about it as am I – this time I’ve tested myself again and this offering is novel-length and a full-blown horror (with a bit of weirdness along the way!). Tome should be released in October / November 2020.

If you’ve pre-ordered the digital copy or pick up the paperback and hardback copies when they are available, you’ll get a sneak peek at the cover for Tome in the back of the book!


Juniper is the first book in Ross Jeffery’s novella trilogy: a post-apocalyptic horror about an insane American town seemingly at the edge of reality. As Juniper suffers from scorching drought and medieval famine, the townsfolk are forced to rely on the ‘new cattle’ for food: monstrous interbred cats kept by the oppressed Janet Lehey.

But there’s a problem: Janet’s prized ginger tom, Bucky, has gone missing, flown the coop. As Janet and her deranged ex-con husband Klein intensify their search for the hulking mongrel, Betty Davis, an old woman clinging to survival on the outskirts of Juniper, discovers something large and ginger and lying half-dead by the side of the road.

She decides to take it home…

Juniper is surreal, dark, funny, and at times: excruciatingly grotesque. Buckle up for a wild ride through the dust-ridden roads of a tiny, half-forgotten American town…

You can buy Juniper by using the following LINK

Ross Jeffery

Ross Jeffery is a Bristol based writer and Executive Director of Books for STORGY Magazine. Ross has been published in print with STORGY Books, Ellipsis Zine 6, The Bath Flash Fiction Festival 2019, Project 13 Dark and Shlock Magazine. His work has also appeared in various online journals such as STORGY Magazine, About Magazine TX, Elephants Never, 101 Fiction, Ellipsis Zine, Soft Cartel and Idle Ink. Ross lives in Bristol with his wife (Anna) and two children (Eva and Sophie). You can follow him on Twitter @Ross1982

Steve Stred

Steve Stred writes dark, bleak horror fiction.

Steve is the author of three novels, a number of novellas and four collections.

He is proud to work with the Ladies of Horror Fiction to facilitate the Annual LOHF Writers Grant.

Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews.

Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog OJ.

You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred

You can follow Steve on Instagram @stevestred

You can visit Steve’s Official website here

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